I’m not sure when I made the transition from rose-hater to rose-eater. These days I have several roses planted in my garden, most of which have been chosen specifically for their eat- and use-ability. All roses are edible, but only those that smell fragrant taste good. Scentless roses are flavourless.
I recently returned from a long trip to an explosion of fresh blooms specifically from the three climbing roses that are planted in front of my ramshackle shed. Two of the three were planted last season and are doing well, but the third, a beautifully scented orange and golden variety called ‘Westerland’ that is now in its third year here has gone absolutely gangbusters. I have been harvesting a generous basketful of fresh blooms every day since my return and it doesn’t seem to be stopping. Once this flush is done there will be at least one more smaller flush later in the season.
I preserve the blooms in several ways, but today I thought I’d share the quickest and easiest method: drying.
Harvest freshly opened flowers on a dry and sunny morning, after the dew has evaporated from the petals, but before the hot midday sun. I find that this is when they are at their most fragrant. Flowers that have been opened for more than a few days tend to lose their scent and flavour. Do not wash the flowers as drying wet blooms will only cause them to turn brown. Shake out flowers that are dirty or wash and use them right away while they are still.
Air Drying Roses:
I have a dehydrator so I don’t bother with this method anymore, but it does work if there is not too much humidity in the air. Simply pluck the petals from the stems and spread them out onto a flat surface out of the sun: I prefer a mesh screen or a big, wide basket with lots of air holes, but newsprint or paper will also work.
Using a Dehydrator:
While a good quality Excalibur dehydrator can make very fast and efficient work of drying roses, I find that I can dry a big batch of petals in an afternoon using my inexpensive Nesco 600-Watt machine. I look forward to drying days because the wonderful, fresh rose smell permeates the entire house!
Whichever dehydrator you use, set it to the lowest heat setting so that the petals dehydrate without burning. My Nesco goes down as low as 95°F, which is one of the reasons why I bought it.
Storing Dried Roses:
I keep mine in an old glass and wire bail canning jar, but any glass jar will do. As with all herbs, they should be stored whole and crushed directly before using to maintain their flavour longer. Keep the jar in a dry place out of the sun.
Using Dried Roses:
I use the dried roses to make rose ice cream, rose flavoured cocktails, cakes, and smoothies. They are also good as a garnish in rice pudding, on top of yoghurt, or in herbal tea. Many savoury and meat dishes in Mexican and Mediterranean cooking call for the addition of fragrant rose petals.
There are also countless ways to use the dried petals to make skin care and beauty products. I will be using some of mine to make my own cleansing grains. And of course there is always old fashioned potpourri, too.
I’ve written much more about growing, preserving, and eating rose petals in two of my books: “Easy Growing: Organic Herbs and Edible Flowers from Small Spaces” and “Drinking the Summer Garden: Homegrown Thirst Quenchers, Concoctions, Sips, and Nibbles“